Will Adams is an alternative folk singer songwriter hailing from New York. I don’t have many background details to convey on this enigmatic artist, but I can tell you that artistically he lies halfway between the folk legends Nick Drake and Cat Stevens. His music is stripped down to just his vocals and acoustic guitar, giving it an immediate intimacy and warmth.
As a songwriter, he has been prolific. In 2007, he released his marathon 23 track debut album Time Lost and Found, following up with Little Brother, Big Sister in 2008 and The Ballad of Reginald Fessenden the following year. Since then he has released a steady stream of singles and this album, Good News, marks his first full length release for a while.
From the first seconds of opening track Magic Garden, with its crystal clear, finger picked acoustic guitar and gentle, emotive vocals, the listener realizes they’re in the hands of a very fine talent. Certainly, the obvious comparison to make is with the aforementioned Nick Drake and there are undoubtedly some similarities; Adams has that same purely poetic quality that manifests in Drake’s finest work and a penchant for alternate guitar tunings.
But whereas poor Nick viewed the world through a deeply melancholy lens as opposed to rose-tinted glasses, Will Adams has an innate optimism and understated joy in his music. Magic Garden encourages appreciating what we have and seizing the day in a poignant way: “Before it’s too late to play these silly games, before we’re old and grey and cannot say our names….”.
Second song Where The Wind Will Blow has another gorgeous, lilting finger-picked progression and is full of finely drawn and vivid lyrical imagery: “All along the river, the blue ray birds are flying by, across the cornfields and down the lane the farmer walks home in the rain…”. It’s another touching song about not knowing where life will take us.
The following She’s Partial To Fruity Drinks, as the title implies, is rather lighter in tone, painting a portrait of a woman that made me think of the mysterious female characters in Dylan songs like She Belongs To Me and Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands. The dry humour in the lyrics acts as a nice counterpoint to the more serious songs on the album: “She likes to go diving in out of town dumpsters, she lives in a house that looks like the Munsters….”.
This character continues straight into the next song, We’ve Been Conned, deepening the detail of this endearingly eccentric character: “She’s good at clearing up messes wearing fancy dresses…”. Fifth track Bread Pudding is built around a lovely descending chord progression and it’s another strangely affecting song about something simple, the eating of a pudding. It’s the measure of an artist to take the mundane and make it seem beautiful.
The next two songs, Prayer For A Homeless Man and Prayer For Frey, are both heartwarming tales, with the former a particularly moving depiction of living homeless and the importance of basic human compassion: “I turned and looked into my pocket and put ten dollars in his hand.…”.
Eighth song Longer Way Home is one of the more melancholy moments, conjuring up the sombre mood of a late night. But the Cat Stevens-esque world wonder is suitably restored on the final track, A Glorious Gift: “Let the guardian angels pick up the pieces….”. This is the ultimate message of the whole album, the dwelling on the light in the midst of darkness and making the most of our lives.
Overall, this is a wonderful collection of songs that work both separately and as a cohesive whole. As a songwriter, Will Adams has found his own niche combining the delicate poeticism of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell, with the evergreen joie de vivre of Cat Stevens yet also the timeworn wisdom of Paul Simon and Dylan. In these times of internecine strife, this music seems like a glorious gift indeed.